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Refuge Notebook: Bear-baiting regulations on the on the Last Frontier

Posted: Friday, April 22, 2011

The famous American author, Napoleon Hill, once said, "Nature cannot be tricked or cheated. She will give up to you the object of your struggles only after you have paid her price." Who knows this better than an outdoorsman? Whether you hunt, fish, hike, camp or photograph there is an appreciation for what surrounds you. It could be the animal you seek for food, the serenity of the trees and mountains around you, s'mores next to the fire under a starlit sky, or it could be as simple as watching the sunrise from your front porch.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) strives to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We, along with other agencies within the Department of Interior, have set a standard not just within this country, but a standard that other countries attempt to emulate. Prior to becoming a Law Enforcement Officer for the USFWS, I had no idea that our idea of protecting our land and animals, through National Parks and Wildlife Refuges, was so unique to the U.S. and not a concept that most countries in the world had embraced.

I am a new employee of the USFWS and I am a Law Enforcement Officer. I am still in training. My training has brought me to the beautiful Kenai Peninsula and to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to increase my knowledge and experience as a conservation officer. I have tromped through the woods of the Swanson River, hiked across lower Skilak Lake, flown in a tiny plane (Cessna 185) over so many lakes I forget their names, learned that you're not from around here if you call it snowmobiling, and seen the unasked questions in people's eyes.

The division of Refuge Law Enforcement upholds laws and regulations so that our children's children's children can hunt for the same animals we hunt today, or angle for the same fish, or enjoy forests where others would cut them down for firewood. As a Law Enforcement Officer for the USFWS, I am learning more about biology and ecology then I ever thought I would have to and while my journey has just begun, I am loving every minute of it.

What I don't love is seeing those questions in people's eyes. You know, the ones that aren't asked because they see "The Law" out to get them instead of someone who is knowledgeable about the activity at hand. I would much rather answer a question than write a citation. Plenty of information is available at our Visitor's Center located on Ski Hill Road (8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, in March 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and in April and May Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm). You can also gather information from our website: http://kenai.fws.gov.

As a reminder, the black bear baiting season is upon us and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge provides ample opportunity to hunt. Prior to my training here on the Kenai Peninsula, I had never heard of black bear baiting. Since arriving, I have learned that there are many benefits to hunting this way. Having a bait site lures animals away from populated areas during a time of year when food can be scarce. It provides the hunter a safe vantage point in a tree stand above the site which serves multiple purposes: It keeps the hunter safer, gives all hunters (new and seasoned) the opportunity to learn and observe, allows for ideal shot placement when taking a bear, and allows for a more discriminating choice in which bear you want to take since many bears often frequent a well maintained bait site.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge allows black bear baiting in designated areas adjacent to the Swanson River and Swan Lake Roads. In addition to following Alaska's State regulations, you must also follow the Refuge regulations which allow everyone to have a safe and happy hunting experience.

Points to remember:

* All bait sites must be at least one mile from dwellings and campgrounds and 1/4 mile away from all roads and trails.

* Completely fill out your harvest report by July 15th so you will continue to be eligible to hunt over bait on the Refuge in future seasons, even if you end up not using your bait site.

* If you are not the permittee but wish to hunt over bait the permittee and new hunter can come to the Visitor's Center and register that new hunter to the bait site by showing a valid hunting license. The new hunter will also need to add his hunting license number to the bait site's required signage.

* State permit issue began April 1, 2011 and placing bait and hunting over bait on state land began April 15th.

* Kenai NWR permit issue begins on April 18th and placing bait and hunting over bait on the Refuge begins May 1st.

* Clean up all bait and trash at your bait site when the season is over.

* Just having a brown bear camp out at your bait site does not constitute a Defense of Life or Property.

Annette Morris is a Refuge Officer at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge in Wyoming. For more detailed information about the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, you can check our website at http://kenai.fws.gov or on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kenainationalwildliferefuge



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